Contrary to popular belief, Zen is rooted in moral values. While spiritual insight can lead to liberation, we will not be able to settle our minds if we are embroiled in harmful behaviors and thoughts. In addition, when we aspire to follow moral precepts but find ourselves breaking them, our self-attachment is revealed to us (and then we can address it).
It is so important for spiritual practice to be grounded in moral behavior that “taking the precepts,” or publicly acknowledging your intent to use them as a guide for your life, is the primary aspect of becoming a Buddhist. Periodically Bright Way Zen will hold a “Jukai” ceremony, in which people take the precepts and formally become Buddhists. Before taking the precepts someone needs to have had a Buddhist practice for six months to a year, studied the precepts, and clarified their intention with the teacher/preceptor. Interest in taking the precepts should be communicated to our teacher, Domyo sensei.
The Precepts of Soto Zen Buddhism describe the function of a Buddha, or a fully awakened being. They set the bar very high! It is impossible to keep the precepts completely, but the intent to do so gives context and shape to our entire life. We continue to work with the precepts our entire lives.
Click here to read the full text of the Soto Zen Bodhisattva Precepts, which are the same for ordained and lay Soto Zen Buddhists.
Books on the Zen Bodhisattva Precepts
The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics by Robert Aitken
Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts by Reb Anderson
The Heart of Being: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism by John Daido Loori